- The Future of a Map is Its Information (The Atlantic) — maps are how we display data when we, the brain, wish to answer a question. Technology is rapidly expanding the questions we don’t need to look at a map to answer: directions, weather forecasts, dining …. (via Flowing Data)
- Governments Don’t Have Websites, Governments Are Websites (MySociety) — the best part about MySociety’s recent funding is that Tom Steinberg is blogging more. The majority of citizens don’t have deep, all encompassing, everyday interactions with the state – at most they drop their kids at school every day, or visit the GP a few times a year. That’s as physically close as they get. To these people, interacting with government already feels somewhat like interacting with Amazon. It sends them benefits, passports, recycling bins, car tax disks from mysterious dispatch offices and it demands money and information in return. The difference is in emotional tone – the Amazon online interactions tend to be seamless, the government online interactions either painful or impossible – time to pick up the phone.
- The Future of Manufacturing is America not China (Foreign Policy) — robots + AI + low-cost or shared public manufacturing facilities = the future of manufacturing.
- Captured America (The Atlantic) — Larry Lessig observes the tilted playing field responsible for America’s inability to govern itself: A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.
Answers not Maps, Government in Web Sites, Future of Manufacturing, The .000063% Influencers
Future Money, 7-Way Venn, Senate-Shackled Open Source, and Code Quality
- A Brief History of Money (IEEE) — money is fragmenting, moving from a shared delusion to a just-in-time collusion. Understand its past to understand its future. The Lydian system’s breakthrough was the standardized metal coin. Made of a gold-silver alloy called electrum, one coin was exactly like another—unlike, say, cattle. Also unlike cattle, the coins didn’t age or die or otherwise change over time. And they were much easier to carry around. Other kingdoms followed Lydia’s example, and coins became ubiquitous throughout the Mediterranean, with kingdoms stamping their insignia on the coins they minted. This had a dual effect: It facilitated the flow of trade, and it established the authority of the state. Money and power are intertwined. With Anonymous popup-tent power structures and uncertainty over the meaning of “state” in the age of the Internet, we’re waiting for the money flip. Paypal was step 1. Bitcoin was step 2. What next?
- 7-Way Venn Diagram (Information is Beautiful) — yes, this is made of awesome.
- Senate Are Dicks to Open Source (Wired) — In a bill recently introduced on Capitol Hill, the committee questions whether Accumulo runs afoul of a government policy that prevents federal agencies from building their own software when they have access to commercial alternatives. The bill could ban the Department of Defense from using the NSA’s database — and it could force the NSA to meld the project’s security tools with other open source projects that mimic Google’s BigTable. Because software development is best governed by politicians. FFS.
- Open Source at NetFlix — we’ve observed that the peer pressure from “Social Coding” has driven engineers to make sure code is clean and well structured, documentation is useful and up to date. What we’ve learned is that a component may be “Good enough for running in production, but not good enough for Github”. This quote is gold. (via Matt Asay)
Reviving SOPA, Inside Instagram, Data Apps, and Recruiting Open Source Contributors
- Lamar Smith Trying to Revive SOPA (BoingBoing) — don’t hate Smith, pity him. He’s a prostitute, and it shouldn’t surprise that when released from prison he immediately returns to the street corner to hawk his pearly again. He’s a victim of a political system that requires politicians to sell their integrity to be elected.
- What Powers Instagram — I love seeing inside other companies’ technology. (via Hacker News)
- How to Recruit Open Source Contributors (Daniel Berkholz) — with actual data from Gentoo’s GSoC projects this year. Good stuff!
Assembly Crack, Political Pieces, Better Select Boxes, and Fairly Using Orphans
- Learn to Write 6502 Assembly Language — if retro-gaming is the gateway drug you’re using to attract kids to programming, this is the crack you wheel out after three months of getting high. Ok, this metaphor is broken on many levels. (via Hacker News)
- Small Political Pieces, Loosely Joined — MySociety: We believe that the wrong answer to this challenge is to just say “Well then, everyone should build their own sites from scratch.” […] Our plan is to collaborate with international friends to build a series of components that deliver quite narrow little pieces of the functionality that make up bigger websites. Common software components, perhaps interchangeable data … good things coming.
- How Fair Use Can Solve Orphan Works — preprint of legal paper claiming non-profit libraries can begin to work on orphaned works under the aegis of free use. Finally, regardless of a work’s orphan status, many uses by libraries and archives will fit squarely under the umbrella of uses favored by the first fair use factor (the “purpose of the use”), and their digitization of entire works for preservation and access should often be justified under the third fair use factor (the amount used). As such, fair use represents an important, and for too long unsung, part of the solution to the orphan works problem.
Budget App, Health Insurance Data, Perl Release, and HTML5 WYSIWYG Editor
- New Zealand Government Budget App — when the NZ budget is announced, it’ll go live on iOS and Android apps. Tablet users get details, mobile users get talking points and speeches. Half-political, but an interesting approach to reaching out to voters with political actions.
- Health Care Data Dump (Washington Post) — 5B health insurance claims (attempted anonymized) to be released. Researchers will be able to access that data, largely using it to probe a critical question: What makes health care so expensive?
- Perl 5.16.0 Out — two epic things here: 590k lines of changes, and announcement quote from Auden. Auden is my favourite poet, Perl my favourite programming language.
- WYSIHTML5 (GitHub) — wysihtml5 is an open source rich text editor based on HTML5 technology and the progressive-enhancement approach. It uses a sophisticated security concept and aims to generate fully valid HTML5 markup by preventing unmaintainable tag soups and inline styles.
Demythologizing Big Data, Online Scams, A Useful Computer Vision Library, and Opening Politics
- The Mythology of Big Data (PDF) — slides from a Strata keynote by Mark R. Madsen. A lovely explanation of the social impediments to the rational use of data. (via Hamish MacEwan)
- Scamworld — amazing deconstruction of the online “get rich quick” scam business. (via Andy Baio)
- Ceres: Solving Complex Problems with Computing Muscle — Johnny Lee Chung explains the (computer vision) uses of the open source Ceres Non-Linear Least Squares Solver library from Google.
- How to Start a Think Tank (Guardian) — The answer to the looming crisis of legitimacy we’re facing is greater openness – not just regarding who met who at what Christmas party, but on the substance of policy. The best way to re-engage people in politics is to change how politics works – in the case of our project, to develop a more direct way for the people who use and provide public and voluntary services to create better social policy. Hear, hear. People seize on the little stuff because you haven’t given them a way to focus something big with you.
Corruption Remains, Automated Instruction, Eolas Victory Incomplete, and CI Arduino Hack
- Why I Hate The STOCK Act (Clay Johnson) — an attempt to reform insider trading within government, but because Congress exempts itself from substantial penalties then it has little effect where it’s needed most. We won’t see change on the issues that matter to us (copyright, due process for Internet takedowns, privacy, etc.) while the lawmakers are distracted by money.
- Instruction Medium is the Message (Dan Meyer) — Print is a medium. Same as digital photos. Same as a teacher’s voice. Same as a YouTube video. Same as a podcast. These are all different media. And as we know, the medium is the message. The medium defines and constrains and sometimes distorts the message. The math that can be conveyed in a YouTube video is not the same math that can be conveyed in a digital photo or a podcast or a print textbook. Anything that can be replaced by a computer should be; it’s doubtful that successful widespread education consists only of things a computer can replace.
- Eolas Patent a Hollow Victory (Simon Phipps) — those who were extorted by the patent troll will go uncompensated, and the loss of one patent leaves their business model still intact. The patent system is extremely broken in the US, it’s a giant cost of doing business, a regulation-created tax that is paid to trolls instead of to the US Government. What idiot supports a tax that doesn’t go to the government? An ethically-corrupted one (see point 1 above).
- Monitor your Continuous Integration Server with Traffic Lights and an Arduino — nifty little hardware hack. It’s an example of making physical objects which control or portray virtual systems, and it’s tied into this Continuous Integration trend whereby software changes go live as soon as possible rather than being held off until 2am on the first Thursday of the month, when the IT team come in to manage the rollout of the new code. CI, in turn, is an example of failing early on something small rather than failing later and larger. (via Sandy Mamoli)
- Monki Gras 2012 (Stephen Walli) — nice roundup of highlights of the Redmonk conference in London. Sample talk: Why Most UX is Shite.
- Frozen — flow-based programming, intent is to build the toolbox of small pieces loosely joined by ZeroMQ for big data programming.
- Hi, My Name is Diane Feinstein (BuyTheVote) — presents the SOPA position and the entertainment industry’s campaign contributions together with a little narrative. Clever and powerful. (via BoingBoing)
The New York Times looks at the word counts of presidential candidates.
This week's visualization comes from The New York Times and is an example of the increasing usage of visualizations to make political arguments.